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Riboflavin and Migraine

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: January 2024 | Last updated: February 2024

Riboflavin (vitamin B2) is an essential vitamin. It has gained popularity as a supplement for the prevention of migraine attacks. It is found in some food sources, is added to other foods, and is also available as a supplement.1,2

Cells in your body use riboflavin for:1

  • Energy production
  • Cell growth and function
  • Metabolism

Your brain requires a lot of energy, so riboflavin is especially important.1,2

What is riboflavin?

Riboflavin is present naturally in some foods, such as:1

  • Eggs
  • Organ meat (liver or kidney)
  • Lean meat
  • Milk
  • Green vegetables

Foods that do not contain riboflavin may have it added after the fact. This includes foods like grains, bread, and cereals. Riboflavin is also available as a nutritional supplement. It can be taken on its own or as a part of many multivitamins.1

Most people are able to get an appropriate amount of riboflavin through their normal diet. Others do not get enough (have a deficiency). People who are the most at risk for riboflavin deficiency include:1

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  • People who are pregnant or breastfeeding and their babies
  • Vegetarian athletes
  • Vegans
  • People who consume little milk

If you believe you may be at risk for a riboflavin deficiency, ask your healthcare provider about possible options.1

Riboflavin and migraine research

Riboflavin plays an important role in how mitochondria work. Mitochondria are the energy powerhouses of the cell, and they need riboflavin to properly generate energy. Mitochondria that are not working properly have been linked to migraine. This is what clued researchers into the potential link between riboflavin and migraine.1,2,4

One study found that 400 milligrams of riboflavin taken daily could effectively prevent migraine better than a placebo (inactive) pill. Over the course of the study, people who took riboflavin experienced fewer and less severe migraine attacks compared to the placebo group. Other studies have also shown that riboflavin is particularly effective at reducing migraine frequency.1-4

What are the possible side effects?

Taking riboflavin usually has minimal side effects. This may be because it passes easily through the digestive system without being absorbed too much by the body. It may cause urine to be more yellow in color than normal.1

As far as experts know, riboflavin is not harmful to take with other medicines. But this does not mean that it cannot cause harm if you take large amounts.1

Other things to know

Supplements are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the same way other drugs are. This means that no outside agency confirms the ingredients or suggested dose.5,6

For example, a fish oil supplement may have more or less fish oil than listed on the label. A supplement may also contain ingredients that are not labeled correctly or at all. This can be dangerous. It can lead to taking too much or taking unwanted ingredients.5,6

The FDA created good manufacturing practices (GMPs) to help this situation. GMPs are guidelines for companies to follow when making supplements. The FDA rarely inspects facilities making supplements in the United States. Companies outside the United States do not have these inspections. But many more supplements are sold than are tested. Your doctor can help you decide if a supplement is safe.5,6

Before beginning treatment for migraine, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you are taking. This includes over-the-counter drugs

Treatment results and side effects can vary from person to person. This treatment information is not meant to replace professional medical advice. Talk to your doctor about what to expect before starting and while taking any treatment.